thechapbookreview

Circulation, Reviewed by William Walsh

circulationCirculation

By Tim Horvath
Sunnyoutside Press
ISBN 978-1-934513-14-9
5 x 7, 64 pages
$10

Reviewed by William Walsh

About a month ago, I won a copy of Circulation, a novella by Tim Horvath, in a contest sponsored by What to Wear During an Orange Alert. I entered because the publisher, Sunnyoutside, released one of my favorite collections a while back, Breaking it Down, by Rusty Barnes, and because I knew that Horvath was a fellow alum of the Writing Program at the University of New Hampshire. So this book had to be good.

And it is. Horvath writes a bit like Paul Auster, using digression and coincidence and a charming expository style. The narrator, who we learn is a Director of Circulation at a small public library, recounts his father’s failed attempt to produce a book called The Atlas of the Voyages of All Things. Though much family time was devoted to researching and exhaustively discussing the book, it’s possible that the father—evocatively named Gus Pardo—had written only the bloated dust jacket copy for the book, which he described as “a lavishly illustrated book that documents the marvelous, intricate, globetrotting chain of events by which things come to be what and where they are.”

The family falls apart undramatically. The narrator, his brother, and mother move on, but Gus is left to pursue his writing fantasy, a sort of failed Edward Tufte. When and aging Gus enters the hospital with a final illness, the focus shifts to the book he was able to produce in his lifetime, Spelos: An Ode to Caves, a 137-page, self-published spelunking memoir. Gus is curious about the life his book has had in his son’s library. Horvath’s Director of Circulation provides a disheartening précis on the life of books (“books go unread, tumble out of print, serve as doorstops”) then delivers to his father several extended deathbed fictions about the men and women who have checked out Spelos over the years. The narrator jokes that he is like Scheherazade, but the stories he’s telling keep his father alive.

Circulation is a warm-hearted novella that celebrates storytelling and the writer’s drive to tell stories. It’s an engaging story about how place inspires narrative, how stories are “conjured from anywhere and nowhere at once.” In the end, we follow the Director of Circulation, book in hand, into the cave of personal myth and family legend. And like him, we emerge without the book but with the story.

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